Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Sweet Summertime

Happy Monday AND happy summer! I hope all the dads out there had an awesome, memory-making Father’s Day with their kids yesterday! As always, #TGIM – I always look forward to Mondays because they are my #52Chances a year to share these memories of my mom with all of you!

Summer officially arrived over the weekend! I hope everyone got out – in the “Great Outdoors” – and celebrated the Summer Solstice! I’ve been writing a lot about June, being National Country Cooking Month. But, did you know June is also National Great Outdoors Month and National Camping Month, as well?

#GreatOutdoorsMonth

After being cooped up, to some degree, as usual, for the winter months, (which, in Michigan, is usually 4 months long instead of 3 – all of December through all of March) people are usually “biting-at-the-bit” to get out and enjoy spring! But this spring turned out to be a 3-month-long (and more extreme) extension of our “winter hibernation”, because of all the pandemic restrictions and closures. So, I ask: “Who isn’t ready to get outside now and explore the “Great Outdoors”?

My husband and I love to enjoy the outdoors by going on a nature hike, or by taking a long scenic drive around Michigan’s “Thumb Area” and having a picnic by the lake or checking out a small village eatery. We also enjoy camping whenever we can get away for the weekend – Michigan has a lot of beautiful campgrounds, parks, and state land to enjoy and explore.

#NationalCampingMonth

I, myself, have been spending more quality time outdoors, this month, going for long walks or working in my gardens, as the weather has been getting warmer. I pulled out our cushions for the backyard furniture and made it “visitor-ready”. In fact, we had a backyard campfire with a few friends to welcome in the summer solstice.

I’ve also started organizing all of our camping gear and going over my checklist so it’s “ready to go” (except for filling our coolers) whenever we are ready to go. We usually go camping a few times a year – spring, summer, and fall. We missed our usual springtime excursion – so we’re really looking forward to our annual summer get-away! How do you like to enjoy your summer?

Photo by Gloria Pitzer, 1964

An online survey of Americans, conducted four years ago, in 2016, by the National Recreation and Park Association, found that the three most commonly preferred summer activities, among all the different age groups, were walking/hiking, going to the beach and having a picnic/barbecue. That sounds about right, still, today! It was interesting, though, that the survey had also found that Millennials preferred going swimming in a pool over walking/hiking.

If you’re one of those who are working out of their home all the time, like Mom and Dad did – or as many have been doing, temporarily, for the past 3 or 4 months because of the Covid-19 restrictions – that can also make you want to “get out and about” every once in a while.

Mom and Dad loved to take a day just to go on a scenic road trip to unwind from the workload at home and refresh themselves. Sometimes, however, work would manage to creep back in whenever they stopped for a bite to eat. Mom always managed to find something good that she wanted to analyze and duplicate when she got back home.

FRIENDS ARE A TREASURE and, when we count our blessings, we count our friends twice! It’s not possible to have a full and happy life without others to share with, to help when help is needed, to be helped when help is offered. – Gloria Pitzer

Mom and Dad seemed to make friends everywhere they went. Some trips were just for relaxation and fun. But other trips involved some Secret RecipesTM work too, as Mom really did enjoy what she did and it was easy to incorporate a restaurant review and an imitation of a dish (or two); even an occasional, in-studio, radio show interview, instead of through the phone lines, as Mom usually did.

Mom with Sue Smith at WSGW-790, Saginaw MI

Mom and Dad also loved to spend a weekend, here and there, camping with their “Good Sam” friends around Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana. In fact, Mom wrote about that in her book, My Cup Runneth Over and I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, p. 61); saying: “Recipe seminars that I have conducted for the Good Sam RV organization in, both, Michigan and Ohio, have given me the opportunity to meet with and talk to people from all over the country relative to their recipe interests and food needs.”

Mom often said that her writing made living worthwhile. But her legacy of Secret RecipesTM gave her so much joy that, for the most part, it wasn’t like “working” at all.

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

My Cup Runneth Over and I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, p. 100)

MORE THAN FRIENDS

Some of our best ideas that come from our friends and we happily share the good they have offered. But even before the recipes were a part of our livelihood, I was learning from friends, holding dear the wonderful ideas they offered. From Dolores Garavaglia, one of my first friends when Paul and I were married, I learned how to make a terrific Italian spaghetti sauce.

We were visiting Ray and Dolores at their cottage, recently, near Houghton Lake [MI], and laughing over the dramatic shortcuts we’ve learned to take since those days, over 30 years ago, when we cooked ‘from scratch’ and thought nothing of an 18-ingredient recipe. From Harold and Anna Muzzi, we have derived a sense of appreciation for a friendship that goes back to Paul’s childhood when Harold [Muzzi] and Ray Garavaglia were his best friends and neighbors.

Julia Bulgarelli, another long-time dear friend, has always given me good ideas and she came from the cottage next door to Ray and Dolores to share an ‘oven stew’ recipe with me that we used in our January-February 1990 issue of our newsletter. Our files are full of such wonderful dishes. But, in addition to that, we learn about living and about loving from our friends. There is a reciprocation that blooms with affectionate exchanges, whether by mail or with personal visits.

Sherry Ellis came to my aid more than once when I was bogged down and needed another pair of hands. I appreciate her sparkle and enthusiasm for just about everything. Sophie Wesley and I have been super friends since we bowled together years ago and, when I least expect it, and needed it the most, a card would come in the mail from Sophie, reflecting the beautiful thoughts that comfort when comfort is needed.

Betty Pumford and I became friends through Flossie Taylor, who passed away a few years ago. Flossie [also] introduced me to Elsie Masterton’s cookbooks, which I truly treasure. Some of Flossie’s recipes dated back to her childhood when she remembered visiting her Aunt Clara and Uncle Henry [Ford] at ‘Fairlane’, their home in Dearborn, Michigan. Betty and I had wonderful lunches with Flossie and after Flossie was gone, carried on the happy tradition, also exchanging some great recipes along the way, as well as understanding and happy conversations.

Since our camping experiences with the national RV organization, ‘Good Sam’, we have truly adopted their slogan… ‘In Good Sam there are no strangers – only friends you haven’t met yet!’ How very true. What would we have done had we not been blessed with meeting Irv and Helen Henze [or] Helen and Chuck Mogg? How much we miss Chuck since he passed away. Friends are those people who know everything there is to know about you, but like you anyhow!

Needless to say, I can’t wait until we can begin our ‘motor-home camping’ again with our Good Sam friends. It’s our weekend vacation pleasure, May through October. Becoming part of the Good Sam organization is the best thing that has ever happened to us, where we could both enjoy mutual friendships and activities. Wonderful, caring people, who constantly remind us that ‘there are no strangers in Good Sam – only friends we haven’t met, yet!’ [From “GOOD SAM – CARING AND CAMPING” by Gloria Pitzer, as seen in Gloria Pitzer’s Secret RecipesTM Newsletter (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; May-June 1987, 126th issue, p. 3)]

To Good Sam RV Club (MI & OH Branches): Thank you for giving me the opportunity to meet with and talk to people from all over the country, relative to their recipe interests and food needs… Since our camping experiences with…’Good Sam’, [Paul and I] have truly adopted their slogan, ‘In Good Sam, there are no strangers – only friends we haven’t met yet! – from Gloria Pitzer (1989)

FOOD-FOR-THOUGHT

Since my dad passed away in the fall of 2014, Father’s Day has become one of those days when I miss my dad more immensely than others! Like any daughter might feel, he was and will always be my hero! Thus, being that yesterday was Father’s Day, I want to share with you an old, satirical editorial that Mom wrote about Dad called “Father’s Day (or) the King and I!” Below is a photocopy of the article, which I found in Mom’s June 1974 newsletter issue.

There weren’t many things that stumped my mom more than understanding my dad’s love of football.

MORE FOOD-FOR-THOUGHT

#CountryCookingMonth

When I shared the following passage in last week’s blog post, I knew something about it sounded familiar. The “Texas Fruitcake” and “Horton’s…family” referred to in Mom’s story were that of Puddin Hill fame.

Grandpa was holding a full house, trying to beat the town’s commercial Baker, and Grandma’s competitor. When Grandpa ‘called’ him, Hartwig Horton was holding a flush of diamonds, but confessed he couldn’t pay Grandpa in cash. However, he would call the debt squared, if Grandpa would agree to take, instead of cash, a much-coveted recipe for his family’s ‘Texas Fruitcake’ that Grandma had been trying to duplicate for years; the secret formula closely guarded by Horton’s Texas family [as in ‘Puddin Hill’]. Grandpa agreed. – Gloria Pitzer, Eating Out At Home Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Sep. 1981, 12th Printing, p. 42)

Mom’s “imitation” of this famous fruitcake was in her last cookbook, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 279); which was a rewrite of her famous, self-published cookbook, Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; May 1983, 3rd Edition).

It’s unclear if Mom developed this recipe, herself; or if she may have gotten it from “Grandma’s Kitchen Journal”, which she has mentioned a number of times in her “family folklore” stories that I’ve been sharing with you the last few weeks. I’m sure Mom would like to spin another yarn about this being THE recipe, won in a West Virginia saloon poker game! But I’m pretty sure it’s Mom’s own development.

#NationalOnionRingsDay

These recipes, pictured below, are worth repeating. In honor of today, being National Onion Rings Day – here is Mom’s copycat recipe for the BEST ONION RINGS IN THE WORLD! It’s the same batter she used for her imitation of Arthur Treacher’s fish. Both of the recipes, in the photo below, were on Mom’s sample sheet of recipes that she gave away years ago in exchange for a SASE. They were also among Mom’s “Original 200” recipes – the cornerstones of her Secret RecipesTM legacy. Enjoy!

http://therecipedetective.com/2019/04/16/archer-teacher-fish-chips-plus-onion-rings-option/

P.S. Food-for-thought until we meet again, next Monday…

THIS IS COMING UP NEXT WEEK…

#WHBY

https://www.whby.com/goodneighbor/
https://nationaldaycalendar.com/national-thank-god-its-monday-day-first-monday-in-january/

…25 DOWN, 27 TO GO!

https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062253

Archer Teacher Fish & Chips, plus Onion Rings option

Archer Teacher Fish & Chips, plus Onion Rings option

By Gloria Pitzer, first published in The Secret Restaurant Recipes Book (National Homemaker’s Newsletter, Pearl Beach, MI; Jan. 1977, p. 1)

Arthur Treacher was once Merv Griffin’s right-hand-man. A dignified and accomplished actor that we best remember from the 1930s & 1940s.

Ingredients:

3 cups boxed pancake mix

3-4 cups club soda

0.4-oz. pkg. ranch dressing mix powder

2-3 lbs. fish fillets (any good frying-type)

Instructions:

With wire whisk, combine the pancake mix and enough of the club soda so that the batter is the consistency of buttermilk – pourable! Whisk in the ranch dressing mix.

Dip the fillets into just enough plain, all-purpose flour to coat them lightly but evenly. Let coated fillets dry a few minutes on wax paper. Dip coated fillets into wet batter to coat lightly but evenly, letting excess batter drip back into bowl.

Using a heavy sauce pan or electric fryer, fry a few pieces at a time in 3-inch deep oil heated to 385F degrees. Turn the pieces once to brown each side (at about 2-3 minutes per side).

Remove from hot oil, using the tip of a sharp knife. Do NOT use tongs as it may cause coating to break and fall off. Keep pieces warm on a cookie sheet or in a roasting pan in a warm oven until all pieces have been fried. Serves 4-6.

ONION RINGS OPTION: (what to do with extra, left-over batter, as it does not keep well…)

Cut 3 firm white onions, each about the size of an orange., into 1/4-inch thick slices and separate into rings. Run these under cold tap water in a colander and let excess water drain off.

As with the fish (above), dip the rings into just enough plain, all-purpose flour to coat them lightly but evenly and let them dry for a few minutes on wax paper. One at a time, dip coated rings into the wet fish batter (above) to coat lightly but evenly, letting excess batter drip back into bowl. Then, drop each ring into 2-inch deep oil heated to 385F degrees. Turn the pieces once to brown each side (at about 2-3 minutes per side or until golden brown and crispy).

Remove from hot oil, using the tip of a sharp knife. Do NOT use tongs as it may cause the coating to break and fall off. Drain rings on paper towels and keep warm on a cookie sheet in the oven, on low, until all rings have been fried. Serves 4 nicely.

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Mom’s Story – How Secret Recipes Began, Part 4

Hi, everyone, and happy Monday! Welcome!

If you’re new to here – I’m Laura Emerich and I started this blog 5 months ago to celebrate my mom’s legacy. My mom is Gloria Pitzer; known to millions as the ORIGINAL “Secret Recipe Detective”. Mom passed away just over a year ago, leaving behind an extensive treasure that included her love of life, family and faith; as well as her creative writing, illustrations and “Secret Recipes” careers.

This week, I am finishing up my 4-part, special series, “Mom’s Story – How Secret Recipes Began”, sharing with you some of Mom’s own memories of sleuthing challenges that earned her the title of the “Recipe Detective”, which she later trademarked. This series is based on excerpts from Mom’s story, as seen on pages 292-297 in her last cookbook, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective, published by Balboa Press (January 2018, 1st Printing) – which is a re-write by me, Laura Emerich, of her famous, self-published book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook” (May 1983, 3rd Printing).

Now, on with the final part of Mom’s continued story, in her own words:

My list of ‘Secret Recipes’ had grown to 200 and we offered them, on 4 x 6” cards [that I printed on my mimeograph], at $0.25 each or 5 for a dollar. It was quite a packaging process to fill the combinations of orders, so I put all those recipes into a book. It was going to be our ‘only’ book on the subject, since most of the recipes were ‘fast foods’ – but, as it turned out, it was only the 1st of a series of 5 books [not to mention all the ones that came after that series]. After ‘Book One’ took off and became a very good seller, I did a Bicentennial American Cookery book [pictured below] as a limited edition and was pleased when the Henry Ford Library at Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan ordered copies for their Bicentennial collection. That was July 1976…

This is the front and back covers of the bicentennial cookbook mentioned above –
Ad about Mom’s recipe cards, as seen on the back of Gloria Pitzer’s The American Cookery Cookbook – written and published by Gloria Pitzer (Happy Newspaper Features, Pearl Beach, MI; July 1976)

Mom’s books were different than the rest – they stood out, not only in their crafty designs and lay-outs, but also because they were filled with food-for-thought AND food-for-the-soul AS WELL AS food-for-the-table ideas – all served up with a lot of clever humor on top! No other cookbooks at that time offered a combination like that – especially not with “make-alike” recipes to imitate food industry dishes and products at home! She was a trail-blazer, carving out a unique niche in the industry! But, let’s get back to Mom’s story…

RECIPES TESTED TO TURN OUT RIGHT

PAUL GAVE HIS BOSS TWO WEEKS’ NOTICE and left his job of 20 years to devote full time to helping me with the recipes and the newsletter. The subscriptions had increased from less than 100 to over 3000 in a few months. Bob Allison’s ‘Ask Your Neighbor’ show was still one of our favorite contacts and before we knew it, we became a sponsor of Bob’s show.

1974 – Gloria Pitzer’s Homemaker’s Newsletter

“It’s like getting together…for coffee with friends!” – Gloria Pitzer, referring to her newsletter

It was just prior to buying advertising time on Bob’s show that one of his audience had called in a request for a fish batter like Arthur Treacher’s. The caller specifically asked on the air if Gloria, “The Recipe Detective”, might give the recipe a try. I did and went back to the phone with each of several developing steps, waiting for the response of Bob’s audience to each one. The 1st several recipes were not quite “on target”. I wanted the recipe to be exactly like the famous batter of the fish and chips chain.

Each step came closer and closer to the perfect duplication, and each was reported over Bob’s show. Finally, with the club soda and pancake mix combination, the radio show’s audience was so enthusiastic that a copy of the recipe was sent to Carol Haddix, who was, then, the Food Editor of the Detroit Free Press. She tested the recipe and published it with an endorsement, that she felt it was “right on target”…

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

Speaking of the Arthur Treacher challenge (above) – the following is another commentary Mom wrote specifically about developing the recipe to mimic Treacher’s fish batter, as seen in her book, “My Cup Runneth Over – And I Can’t Find My Mop” [written and self-published by Gloria Pitzer, Dec. 1989; pages 73-74]. It was not a quick development, and others have tried to lay claim to this secret; but, in truth, Mom was the one to originally discover the “secret” ingredients AND process involved in developing a matching product at home. Unlike most of the companies, whose products Mom imitated, Treacher’s people accepted the copycat imitation as the homage it was meant to be.

“Imitation is the sincerest [form] of flattery” – One of Charles Caleb Colton’s most famous aphorisms (1824). Lacon, Or, Many Things in a Few Words: Addressed to Those who Think (8 ed.). New York: S. Marks. #217, p. 114.

The most exciting attention we received was the recognition given us by the Arthur Treacher people. At the time, the Arthur Treacher fish batter was unique. It was crispy and golden brown and very light. Everyone we talked to about fish wanted to know how to recreate the Treacher fish batter at home. The original challenge came directly from Bob Allison’s “Neighbors”. The TV commercials advertised that it was “the meal you cannot make at home!” I tried to disprove that.

Finding the nearest Arthur Treacher restaurant [from “beautiful, downtown Pearl Beach”] was the real challenge. With a friend, I drove into Mt. Clemens and located one. After dozens of tests and trying what I thought would be a good Oriental Tempura batter, again, I was disappointed. I tried every fish batter I could find, in every possible recipe source [at the time], over a 6- or 7-month period.

Finally, one day, by accident, I was preparing fish for our dinner – without any thought being given to Arthur Treacher’s batter – and on a lark, [I] mixed together boxed pancake mix and some Club Soda. Only because the plumber was working on the pipes and had turned off the water temporarily, did I resort to that Club Soda, so that I wouldn’t have to put off preparing dinner until the plumber was finished. Everybody had someplace to go that evening, so dinner had to be fast and on time.

Wouldn’t you know it! There, on the platter, was a mountain of the most beautiful, golden, crispy fish that you would have sworn came right from Arthur Treacher’s own kitchen! The next day, I retested the recipe and tried to work out some of the little flaws that we came across, before I could report back to Bob Allison and his “Neighbors” over, then, WWJ-Radio, Detroit.

The biggest problem was how the coating kept falling off the fish during frying. It turned out, I had to correct two things – coating [the] moistened fillets, first, in plain flour, before dipping [them] into the batter and, then, having the oil precisely at 385F. Oh! And a third point: Never to use tongs – or the coating would break apart.

Once the fish recipe proved to be free of faults, I sent a copy of the recipe to Carol Haddix, the Food Editor of the “Detroit Free Press” [at that time], for her comments. I had talked with her, by phone, during the many weeks that I worked on perfecting the batter, trying to discover why the batter would sometimes fall off the fish; why the fish was, sometimes, greasy; and a number of other problems. She offered me the benefit of her experiences with frying fish and told me to get her a copy of the recipe, if I ever perfected it.

When she published the recipe in the paper, it carried her approval as “on target”. So, it does, therefore, have ample validation that the recipe is ours and does belong to “Secret Recipes”, in spite of the number of people I have had to confront on the issue over the years, regarding the plagiarism of it from our publications. Because our recipes and newsletters are all “dated publications” and are subject to Interstate Commerce, we don’t use the same copyright procedures that book publishers use.

We validate the originality by date of publication and back it up with radio and newspaper endorsements and involvement with the development and printing of the recipes for public use. But, that one recipe really caught the attention of the press! The wire services picked up Carol Haddix’s story about us and the fish batter recipe and, before long, it appeared in over 100 papers…[and the rest is history!]

Gloria Pitzer, 1985

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading “Mom’s Story” as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it again for her legacy tribute. In closing, here is a picture of Mom’s make-alike recipe for Arthur Treacher-Style Fish Batter and a bonus recipe, using any extra batter for Onion Rings (like Burger King used to serve in the beginning). This comes from Mom’s 1985 “Free Recipes & Information” sheet; asking only for proper credit if you care to share it:

More information about Arthur Treacher and a slightly different version of this recipe, using individual spices instead of the packaged ranch dressing mix, along with some other famous fish & chips-style dishes and stories, can be found on pages 105-115 of Mom’s last book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective” [published by Balboa Press (January 2018, 1st Printing) – a re-write by me, Laura Emerich, of her famous, self-published book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook” (May 1983, 3rd Printing)].

Go to https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062252 to purchase the book for only $20.99! An eBook version is also available for only $3.99!

Please, come back and check out my blog next week, “Famous Foods from Famous Places”, when I discuss more of Mom’s writing career and how she earned the title of “The Recipe Detective”, which she trademarked; plus, the cookbook that began it all!